Teresa Maynard, Sweet Teez Bakery, Dorchester, MA: 2022 Rising Star Nominee
“In early 2016 I took a business plan writing course with CWE and it help me start my business. The professor of the CWE course went on to be my mentor and has been working with me through the 5 years I have been in business. I also have participated in workshops through CWE.”
In November 2017, Teresa Maynard, the founder of Sweet Teez Bakery, was happily frazzled after having created and delivered 200 apple and sweet potato mini-pies to Capital One Bank’s cafe in the Back Bay, each packaged in its own container to be given out as a free holiday treat. That was after nine dozen mini-pies and nine dozen pumpkin cupcakes went to the bank’s Downtown Crossing café. For other customers, she had made 40 full-size pies, dozens of mini-pies and cakes, and donated 144 chocolate and lemon cupcakes for a local school fundraiser.
All of this is a labor of love for Teresa, who in early 2016 left a full-time job as assistant director of fundraising and user support at Harvard University’s development office to pursue this dream. Soon after leaving her job, she completed CWE’s 10-Week Business Planning program in Grove Hall, graduating in November 2016.
A turning point
Teresa did not set out to start a business. Leaving Dorchester for college in New Rochelle, New York, she earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communications, focusing on advertising, marketing and graphic design. Following that, she worked in health care marketing and project management in New York before moving with her husband and children back to Boston, where she worked at the Brookline Housing Authority and then Harvard.
In her mid-30s, with three young children, she took some time off while recovering from an illness. Having space to pause and take stock, she realized she was ready for a big change. “I started looking at my life, and I said, ‘I don’t want to sit here and run reports anymore.” As a lover of baked goods and a person with a nut allergy, whose daughter also has allergies, Teresa had long been frustrated at the lack of good bakeries in her neighborhood. “I was out on sick leave for a while, and I would walk around and think, ‘Why don’t we have these bakeries in our neighborhood, like the ones I see in Harvard Square and Brookline?’” she recalled. “And I thought, ‘I’m going to do this.’
She left her job in January 2016. “My husband said I had one year to do this,” she recalled, and by fall she had signed up for CWE’s 10-Week Business Planning course, won the pitch contest, incorporated the business, and had space at CommonWealth Kitchen. In November, Sweet Teez was born.
“December was crazy,” she recalled. “And I still didn’t believe I had my own business.”
Within a few months, Teresa’s products garnered recognition. At the 2017 Boston Food and Wine Expo, she sold all of her cupcakes and “tipsy cake” made from her Jamaican grandmother’s recipe. At the New England Dessert Showcase, her offering — “a simple dark chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache and a little sea salt” — won first place for best chocolate dessert. These early successes are still bringing in customers and sales, she said.
It takes a village
Teresa counts among her blessings a wealth of programs that have provided training, support and new networks of experts and fellow entrepreneurs. “I grew up here in Dorchester, and I’m no different from anyone else,” she said. “But when you dig, you really do find opportunities, and people who can help you such as the people from the Center for Women & Enterprise”.
Taking a breath
Hectic as running a business can be, Teresa finds that she actually has more time to spend with her three young children. “I drop them off at school now, and am available to attend plays or play with them after school,” she said. “When you’re at a high stress very demanding job, you’re present-but-not-present. And kids grow up so fast, I’m not willing to give that up for work.”
The greatest satisfaction may be the very essence of her business: spending time baking and bringing pleasure to others with her creations. “I love the smell of baking. I love the look on people’s faces when they taste my baked goods. It’s intoxicating,” she said.
Compared to having a steady job, the lack of income is hard sometimes for a new entrepreneur, Teresa said. “But I would say the biggest surprise is my ability to actually run this business. Entrepreneurial confidence can’t be taught. I’m the CEO of this company. It’s mine. I’ve made a lot of money for other people. I can make that for myself. There’s no job in this company I haven’t done. When I have employees down the line, I can tell them, ‘I’ve done that.’”
Next up: ‘grow, grow, grow’
Teresa wants to “grow, grow, grow,” she said. She is envisioning a flagship shop in Codman Square and her own production space, and is working on getting a wholesale license and expanding her catering opportunities.
Talking with Teresa, you might guess that with her passion, energy and outgoing personality, starting a business would be the most natural and easy of decisions. However, it was more complicated than that.
“You don’t know me, but I’m a rule follower, so this is very uncomfortable — but I decided to step out on a limb and follow my passion,” she said. “And I’ve loved every minute of it.”